An Interview with Wharton’s Admissions Gatekeeper

Isn’t Wharton really looking for exactly the same people as Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, and Chicago? It’s pretty much the same applicant pool, anyway.

I know Wharton best so I can only comment on what we’re looking for. When you go to a top business program, you’ll get access and exposure to many of the same things. You are going to get a top-notch education. You are going to meet amazing and talented people. You are going to learn from world-renown faculty. You are going to have alumni in all parts of the world and in all kinds of industries. On face value, it all looks the same. But it’s really around scratching beneath the surface and understanding the nuances of a program and seeing if it is a fit for you.

I am a big believer in seeing that it is a two-way fit. We will do our part, and you should also do your part in assessing whether you think we’re a good fit for you. I think there are some inherent nuances around Wharton that are important for an applicant to know. Those nuances will shape the day-to-day experiences a person will have in the program.

At its core, Wharton is known for being analytical, data-driven, fact-based and quantitative. That often gets misperceived as finance, which it is not. It’s a way of thinking about business, whether it is finance or retail or marketing. So I think that is our approach. If you are analytical, data-driven and fact-based, we are going to appeal to you. That is an important point of differentiation.

We also value flexibility in the way we approach business. We want everybody to get the core business skills, but we also want them to be able to really carve out their own path.

We have the most women in our program and that inherently changes the dynamic. There are lots of studies out there that show how differently women approach business and decision-making. So you’ll see that perspective also play itself out in the classroom.

And we’re the most global. We’ve always been and continue to be. We have people come to us from all the other parts of the world and they bring perspectives through different crises and experiences.

If you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll begin to see how these nuances come together to create a culture that is quite unique and different.

Okay, so now I’m confused. You had been a quant person who worked at Morgan Stanley and then you wanted to go back to grad school to get an MBA and be a people or OB (organizational behavior) person. Why in the world would you then return to Wharton if it is a quantitative, analytical school?

Wharton is known for being quantitative and analytical. Those are skill sets that I was looking to bring to the field I was interested in. So I was looking to leave finance as an industry, but I wasn’t looking to leave behind the skills that were so critical to any part of business. My goal was to bring this skill set to a different field.

All right, so what happens when an applicant to Wharton hits the submit button?

This past year we actually started reading applications online. Historically, we had all been a paper-based system even though applicants are submitted online. We were all printing out paper. Now we actually read all these files online. It’s a very iterative process. What that means is that there are multiple touch points that every application receives, multiple reads from different admission officers that occur before we decide to make an invitation to interview a candidate. If we decide not to interview someone than his or her process with us is done for the cycle year.

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